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THE FIRST BOWL OF WRATH

 

 

Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, ďGo and pour out the bowls of the wrath of God on the earth.Ē So the first went and poured out his bowl upon the earth, and a foul and loathsome sore came upon the men who had the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. Revelation 16:1Ė2

 

 

At the opening of this chapter we hear a loud voice from the temple calling to seven angels. We have learned in the Revelation that the temple represents the church as originally built by Jesus Christ. This is not a denomination or organization of churches; it is the body of Christ consisting of all that have been redeemed from sin. It is not a voluntary organization one can join. The word church in the original Greek means called out ones. The church is people that have been called out of sin and added to the body of Christ. When people are born again they instantaneously become members of Christís body through the agency of the Holy Spirit as taught in 1 Corinthians 12:13. So, first and foremost, the church, the body of Christ, is essentially a spiritual position involving all the redeemed.

But the church is not an abstract entity; it can and does exist visibly when redeemed people come together in congregations as we see in the Book of Acts. The New Testament does not prescribe any minimum or maximum number that can form a visible congregation of the body of Christ. In fact, Jesus said in Matthew 18:20 that where 2 or 3 are gathered in His name He will be will in the midst of them.

In the prophecies of the Lamb on Mount Zion in chapter 14, we saw two occasions when angels came out of the temple and openly proclaimed the everlasting gospel. The work of those angels resulted in the reaping of the earth and the gleaning of the vine of the earth. Now in chapter 16 we hear a voice coming from the temple speaking to the seven angels. Notice the text says the angels, as if we have seen these angels before. Who are these angels? We first met these angels as they appeared with the sounding of the trumpets beginning in chapter 8. These angels are the ministry of the church that was given the understanding of the WHY behind the historic failures of the visible church throughout history. With the understanding of the potential for the visible side of the church to fall into error, they now are given bowls of Godís wrath.

What is Godís wrath that is contained in these bowls? From the prophecy of the Lamb on Mount Zion in chapter 14 we learned the wrath of God is the same as the everlasting gospel that accomplishes three things: It . . . (1)Teaches the deliverance from sin and the possibility of living a holy life; (2) Exposes spiritual Babylon that teaches less than the full gospel and holds Godís people in bondage to sin; and (3) Pronounces judgment on unnatural bonds between Godís people and false churches that constitutes what is called spiritual fornication.

In our last lesson from chapter 15 we learned that the wrath of God is the absence of Godís love. The wrath of God is a choice people make when they separate and close themselves off from the love of God. When people reject the love of God, they expose themselves to all the evil that is in the world. As we study the seven last plagues, we will find that when people substitute a man-made church for the body of Christ, placing their trust in whatever those churches teach for salvation rather than the everlasting gospel, those very churches separate people from Godís love and put them in the position of wrath.

This first bowl of Godís wrath is poured out on the earth. Looking back to Revelation 8:7 we saw the sounding of the first trumpet that caused hail, fire and blood to be thrown to the earth. This first trumpet was a wakeup call to all that call themselves Christians and even more to those that call themselves the Church of God. The warning is that something is missing: We might have sound doctrine, we might reach our hands in fellowship to every blood-washed one, but where is the power of God? Can we really be the church as Jesus built it if the power of God is not present?

Under the first trumpet, the blood mingled with hail and fire represents what we now know as the everlasting gospel. The sounding of this trumpet reminds us that the early church went forth conquering and to conquer because they preached the solid word of God under the power of the Holy Spirit. Preaching the everlasting gospel is likened to throwing it on the earth. We learned from the sixth seal in Revelation 7:1 that the earth represents: People that are grieved by the presence of Christ; people that do not keep Godís commandments; but yet are people to whom the Holy Spirit offers Godís gift of salvation. The earth of the Revelation represents an element of mankind that is not among the redeemed; it is those that are not actually saved from sin.

The result of the preaching under the sixth seal was the burning up of one-third of the trees and all the green grass. The trees and green grass represent religious and non-religious people that depend on their works or religious background for some kind of salvation or justification of their lives. The everlasting gospel destroyed those philosophies and convinced a significant portion of these people, called one-third, that only the love, grace, and power of God can take away their sins and move them into the kingdom of God.

The sounding of the first trumpet reminds us of our heritage as the church built by Christ: we enjoy the victory over sin and the world under the reality of the gospel. The WHY behind the first trumpet explains why the early church was successful in its mission. There were two reasons for this success. First; the early church accepted Christ as its head and leader and all were committed to Him in preaching and living the gospel under any and all circumstances, even to death. And second, this church loved the Word of God and fought for it relentlessly. It also knew who was the enemy and tested them to expose their false professions of religion. The challenge for what professes to be the church in our time is to shake off the silence and inactivity that clings to the church like dust.

We now come the first bowl of Godís wrath poured out on the earth. The earth represents those with religious professions but are without a real possession of Godís gift of salvation. These are church members and self-identified professors of Christianity that have not been born again and filled with the Holy Spirit. As such, these people tend to migrate to spiritual Babylon and are not attracted by the everlasting gospel.

Remember that the Babylon of the Revelation is a mixed population. Some of Godís people are still held in captivity in spiritual Babylon. However, the majority of church members and church-goers are shallow, not committed to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They are content with whatever association they have with church and are indifferent and indiscriminate concerning the things of God and the things of the world.

When the everlasting gospel was preached under the direction of the Lamb on Mount Zion in chapter 14, we saw Godís people coming out of spiritual Babylon, dying to sin and self-love, living holy lives and working together with Jesus in the work of the kingdom.

But as the first bowl of wrath is poured out on the earth we see a totally different reaction: people with mere professions of Christianity reject the everlasting gospel and, in consequence, the gospel turns into wrath that to them is a foul and loathsome sore. These people have the mark of the beast; they are joined to or are in some way affiliated and dependent on religion or church that is not the church as built by Jesus Christ. They are those that worship the image of the beast. Instead of relying on Christ and the grace of God, their love and reliance is placed in their church membership or religious association of whatever kind it may be.

Under this first bowl of wrath the everlasting gospel causes a wound much like an ulcer, a condition that disintegrates human tissue. Barnes says of this wound:

 

The proper meaning, therefore, is that of a sore, ulcer, or boil of a severe and painful character; and the most obvious reference in the passage, to one who was accustomed to the language of Scripture, would be to some fearful plague like that which was sent upon the Egyptians.

 

Matthew Henry suggests this bowl of wrath ďproduced noisome and grievous sores on all who had the mark of the beast. They had marked themselves by their sin; now God marks them out by his judgments.Ē

These sores are described as foul and loathsome or as in the King James Version a noisome and grievous sore. Foul/noisome. Greek kak-os, meaning worthless and used in the sense of depraved. Loathsome/grievous. Greek pon-ay-ros, meaning hurtful in the essential character, particularly morally degenerate. The wrath of the everlasting gospel does not produce the love of God in these people; instead, it reveals a spiritual nature that is depraved and morally degenerate. In other words, it exposes the truth that their false gospel and reliance on man-made institutions in the name of the church do not produce real salvation.

The everlasting gospel does not make people depraved and degenerate; it reveals the condition that is already there. The greatest of truths in the everlasting gospel is that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7) Spiritual Babylon uses church membership and perverted doctrine to shield people with mere professions of religion from the sin-cleansing blood of Christ. In this sense, it puts people outside or opposed to the love of God and consequently in a state of wrath.

1 John 3:9 teaches the absolute truth about real salvation. ďWhoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.Ē  Barnes writes about this seed,

 

The word seed means properly seed sown, as of grain, plants, trees; then anything that resembles it, anything which germinates, or which springs up, or is produced. It is applied in the New Testament to the word of God, or the gospel, as that which produces effects in the heart and life similar to what seed that is sown does.

 

Jesus Himself taught in John 3:3, ďUnless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.Ē . . . Verse 7, ďYou must be born again,Ē which He says in verse 8 is to be ďborn of the Spirit.Ē The Bible is not teaching some kind of absolute perfection, for there is always the possibility that a born again person could commit a sin. The teaching is that the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Truth implanted in the heart of the born again, so influences and guides them so that in the time of temptation they have grace and do not have to sin. The Holy Spirit and the Word of God cannot lead you into sin. The Holy Spirit and the Word of God give grace and instruction that evidences the new birth and draws the born again person towards God, obedience and holiness.

This first bowl of the wrath of God is the effect of the everlasting gospel on all that depend and hope in some kind of church membership, religious affiliation, or self-styled gospel for their salvation. The everlasting gospel is uncompromising in its work concerning the sins of mankind. It cleanses from all sin and it produces works of righteousness. The foul and loathsome sore is seen in the attitudes of those that have not grasped the truth and reality of Bible salvation. They consider the teaching of holiness through the blood of Christ as unwarranted and undeserved judgement against them. They call those that teach and believe the everlasting gospel fanatics. Invariably they defend what they believe is the necessity to continue sinning in spite of what the Bible clearly teaches. They like the passages that teach all are sinners but are virtually ignorant of the passages that clearly teach holiness.

The beast and his image put darkness for light. Godís judgment is clearly enacted against doing this. Isaiah 5:20, ďWoe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!Ē Matthew Henry comments:

 

Who confound and overthrow the distinctions between moral good and evil, who call evil good and moral evil (v. 20), who not only live in the omission of that which is good, but condemn it, argue against it, and, because they will not practise it themselves, run it down in others, and fasten invidious epithets upon itónot only do that which is evil, but justify it, and applaud it, and recommend it to others as safe and good.

 

Henry appears to capture the distinctions of the loathsome and grievous sores by identifying these false gospels as depraved and morally degenerate.

Jesus built His church for the purpose of preaching the gospel that saves people from their sins and leads them into holiness. Babylon, the image and mark of the beast, substitutes membership and religious profession for cleansing from sin and the inward guidance of the Holy Spirit.

The angel, this ministry God raises up that pours out this bowl of Godís wrath, has no malice towards people that want to believe in and hold to a sinning religion; they merely tell people the truth from Godís word. You are under the wrath of God because you have built yourself a spiritual closet that shuts you off from the love of God. The wrath of God is the absence of Godís love and it is a choice you make for yourself. These angels do not lift themselves up as particularly righteous or better than others; instead, their purpose is to give people in the bonds of sin hope and assurance that God really can and will save them from sin. But, they also make people aware of the judgment of God that awaits those that reject the message of the everlasting gospel. For this reason, those that believe, hold to, and live out the truth of the everlasting gospel are criticized and condemned as heretics and uncharitable purveyors of unwarranted judgment.   

We are living in the difficult times of these bowls of Godís wrath being poured out on apostate Christianity and Christ-less religions. Yet, in spite of most of the church world rejecting the everlasting gospel in favor of the wrath of God, there will be an end-time revival.